In honor of Family Engagement Month this November, the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services has announced new early learning resources for families with infants and young children.
Rootle Readiness, a partnership between the NCDHHS and PBS North Carolina, provides educational resources that help families understand the significance of early childhood education.
Rootle Readiness also helps connect families with quality childcare programs and early childhood educators.
The NCDHHS was issued the "Preschool Development Grant Birth through Five" grant by the federal government, which prompted the collaboration between the NCDHHS and PBS NC.
“It is a 24/7 resource, so people can access it as they have time, and it’s just an amazing way for us to reach over 3.8 million homes,” Ariel Ford, the director of the Division of Child Development and Early Education for the NCDHHS, said.
The Rootle Readiness resources include the N.C. Child Care Resource and Referral Council, the N.C. Infant-Toddler Program, Zero to Three, the National Association for the Education of Young Children and Smart Start, among others.
Early childhood education is important, Ford said.
Most of the brain’s physical development occurs during the first five years of life, setting the stage for a child’s future success.
Ford said quality early childhood education is a critical way for children to be supported in becoming productive and engaged citizens.
Parents play a significant role in childhood development and early education because they are their child’s first teachers, engaging with children from birth.
According to Packer, they also contribute greatly to shaping their child’s learning environment.
Despite early childhood education being integral to a child’s healthy development, not all children have access to early education resources.
Jade Packer, the director of Children’s Media and Education Engagement, said the inaccessibility of educational opportunities for some children can be attributed to cost or transportation barriers and other factors.
Kristi Snuggs, the president of the Child Care Services Association, said parents of low-income families often don’t get the opportunity to spend time with their children, due to their jobs.
Additionally, they may not have the resources to provide children with the same instructional materials and practices that a family with a higher income could afford.
To account for early education disparities, PBS NC offers Rootle Readiness resources free of cost to families and over the air.
“Their goal is to reach out to all 100 counties — to make sure that families know about the resources that are there for them, no matter where they live,” LouMecia Staton, community relations manager for Prevent Child Abuse NC and an inaugural Rootle Ambassador, said.
English and Spanish closed captions are also provided over the air to help reach the Spanish-speaking population in the state.
The Child Care and Subsidy Program, managed by the NCDHHS, is a Rootle Readiness resource that uses state and federal funds to subsidize childcare services to low-income families.
“It’s important to meet people exactly where they are,” Packer said.
Packer said PBS NC wants to make sure that families are aware of the resources available to them, and hopes to receive positive feedback from families about the Rootle Readiness resources.
“It’s so important for kids to have an early start and we’re able to get that start in place by providing them with those high-quality early childhood educational resources and opportunities,” Packer said.
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